Here's the scoop: An East Hampton Village proposal intended to encourage owners to curb their dogs at the beach is being praised, and pooh-poohed, in an onslaught of email on both sides of the issue.
The proposal would require owners to leash their dogs within 500 feet of the entrance to a beach when it is not being used by swimmers, in season.
A public hearing on the plan is scheduled for April 19, but many are already making their feelings known loud and clear, flooding Village Hall with more than 300 emails either praising the change as badly needed or claiming that it would violate basic freedoms.
"I'm dismayed and distressed at the prospect of the village revising beach-dog rules to prohibit or cut back on the ability of residents to bring their dogs to the beach," wrote Drew Cooper, a 29-year resident. "You don't have to address a problem a very few dog owners may create with a sledgehammer to the rights and enjoyment of all dog owners. Dogs running and frolicking on the beach with their owners at reasonable hours . . . is part of the fabric of our community."
But Bernhard Kiembock is on the other side of the issue, writing that he would "like you to seriously consider not allowing any dogs at all on the village beaches between May 15 and Sept. 15."
It's not that man's best friend is behaving badly. Village Manager Larry Cantwell said there have been no complaints about dogs biting or threatening beachgoers. But when Fido's got to go, he's got to go, and Cantwell said that is what concerns the village board.
So the idea behind the proposal is that if dogs are leashed -- and the leash is no more than 6 feet long -- owners will better see where to pick up any dog poop.
"Animal waste left on the beach continues to be a frequent problem, notwithstanding the signage alerting dog owners to clean up and the availability of plastic bags for use in cleaning up," the legislation notes.
The current village ban -- dogs are not allowed on any village beach between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from the second Sunday in May until Sept. 30 -- would remain unchanged. The proposed law would be in effect after 6 p.m. and before 9 a.m. during that period, and throughout the offseason.
Earlier this year, a rumor that the village was contemplating a total ban on dogs on beaches led dozens of people to call Village Hall in protest.
Residents in East Hampton Village are sensitive about their dogs, and their rights, which Cantwell said he understands, especially when owners want to let their dogs run loose when there are no crowds.
"For some, it's getting to the beach every morning at 7 a.m. with a cup of coffee and taking their dogs for a walk," he said. "People want to strongly defend the freedoms that this area has provided for so long . . . They object to taking away any part of their life. And, that's a good thing."
East Hampton Village beaches
Georgica Beach: Lily Pond Lane
Main Beach: 101 Ocean Ave.
Wiborg Beach: Highway Behind the Pond
Egypt Beach: Old Beach Lane
Two Mile Hollow Beach: Two Mile Hollow Road